Teaching Character: Creativity
I was born to the MacGyver of the art world. Send my mother out with 2 toothpicks, a jar of glue and a paintbrush and she will make the equivalent of Walmart to hang on your wall. She will have enlisted caterpillars to spin silk and then weave it into canvas. She will have crushed rocks to make pigment and then mixed it with water from a freshly dug well.
In short, she will have created a piece of art that is effortlessly amazing it will brighten the wall above your couch. So my mom would tell you that teaching creativity to a child is effortless. A no brainer. Anyone can do it.
And in a sense, she’d be right. Because kids come to us more creative than we ever hope to be as adults. More open. More malleable. All we need to do is get out of the way.
Take this story by Sir Ken Robinson about his son who, at 4, played Joseph in his school’s Nativity play. When the 3 kings brought their gifts - gold, frankincense and myrrh - each child presented the gift to Joseph. “I bring you gold,” the first king says. “I bring you myrrh,” says the second. And the third…”Frank sent this.”
He he he…Frank sent this.
See, children create their own realities every day. It’s as if they don’t know a wrong answer. They barrel through, even if they have to make stuff up. This reminds me of Julie, my grade-school friend, telling me her dad worked at the Pelican Court.
We lived in Louisiana at the time; of course there’d be a court full of pelicans! Duh. It’s the state bird. It made a lot more sense than ‘appellate’ to a young mind. And so visual - all those birds lined up making decisions!
Though, to be clear, creativity doesn’t equal being wrong. But. In order to be creative, a person needs to not fear being wrong, or failing, or doing something different. The taking of the chance is the creativity steam propelling you forward.
And children take chances every day. Just learning language - they start out babababababa. Eventually they get to ‘ball.’ And yet, as they grow, we correct them, reign them in, teach them - and rightly so - the ‘right’ way to speak, to walk, to think.
Only, at what cost? Do we squander our children’s talents? (As Sir Ken Robinson, in his TED talk on creativity, asks.) Hmm.
Of course, one route to teaching creativity is being creative. But, what if you aren’t an art MacGyver yourself? Look elsewhere for role models.
Museums are a wonderful place to start. Yes, they can be intimidating, but they are packed full of useful things. And I’m not talking about the art on the walls!
Take the Modern Museum of Art, for example. They have a ‘Looking Together‘ guide that is really helpful to parents of children of any age on how to approach looking at and experiencing art. And you don’t need to know a thing about art! It can also be interpreted for the natural world - out there in the woods, even a parking lot.
Museums too high-brow for you? Then try this: let your kids get bored. Take their stimulus away and see what they come up with. Best to do this outside because the last thing you want to do is get into a fight about TV time. But, you never know what you and your child will create when pressed. What do they say the mother of invention is?!?
The Kennedy Center has a wealth of information on arts integration, which is off topic slightly but a good motivating read as to why being creative is important. Their focus is education, as in schools, but for a parent you can glean ways to enhance your (and your child’s) creativity at home.
Talking about getting out of our children’s creative ways, I have a confession to make. My daughter, who like most 4 year olds, is enamored with anything princess. One day she decided her hair wasn’t long enough so she took the skirt she was wearing, flipped it up onto her head, and wore it like long flowing pink hair. Perfect for the pink princess she is.
Now, she regularly puts on her hair before we go out. To the store. To school. To the playground. Anywhere. She wears this skirt hair. And I’m dying to tell her to take it off. And sometimes I do. But mostly I don’t.
But, I don’t because she wears it so much it’s a part of her now. I hardly even see it. Passers-by do, though, believe me. So, if you happen to see a mom walking around with a tiny pink-princes-nun-in-training, that’d be me. Fostering creativity.
What silliness can you envision doing, all in the name of creativity?
photo credit: JD Hancock